End of the Road festival – Larmer Tree Gardens, 29/30/31 August 2019

This week brought the very sad but quite expected news that the 2020 edition of the End of the Road festival will be postponed to 2021. This event has been this blog’s favourite part of the year for a bit of time now and missing it will be a huge disappointment…

As I did not take the time to review last year’s festival, I thought that the moment to do so was perfect and that it would (slightly) ease the pain. The 2019 edition was quite special for me. On the minus side, I had to leave on Sunday and therefore did not attend any of the fourth day’s gigs. Not ideal as for those familiar with this festival will undertand that this is more than actually missing a few bands… On the plus side though, I was accompanied last year by the leading music expert of Garidech, France and we both enjoyed every minute of it. Here is a selection of the bands and artists I liked the most.

Day One – Thursday 29th August 2019

I guess I probably repeat myself but deciding a few years ago to extend the festival from three to four days was a great decision. This was even truer this year with two of my favourite artists. Du Blonde (née Beth Jeans Houghton) played as usual a very intense set with her usual mix of rage and tenderness.

Thursday’s headliners may not appear an obvious choice on paper but to me Spiritualized played the best set of the festival. Jason Pierce is one of the best songwriters of his generation and the only one to mix so beautifully gospel sounds and psychedelic rock. If not familiar with his career, please read my review of their “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” masterpiece.

Day Two – Friday 30th August 2019

I think I can bear any sort of weather when attending a festival but I must confess that nothing beats a beautiful sunny day! We were also lucky to have an unexpected and friendly chat with Sofia Hagberg, one of the two original founders of the festival.

From The Beths (young pop band from New Zealand) to Wire (post punk legends), I very much enjoyed all the gigs I attended but a specific mention has to be given to two artists. The first one is what is called a musicians’ musician, i.e. an artist very much lauded amongst their peers but without necessarily a major impact in terms of sales of records. Steve Gunn is an extraordinary guitar player and he can regularly be found on other bands’ records. He is starting to find his own voice as well as a songwriter and singer and his set was close to perfect. Very nice to find him again a few hours later playing guitar on two songs with Cass McCombs. The latter had been one of this blog’s favourite for a long time now and his latest LP was one of our albums of the month in 2019.

The other special mention of that day was to be given to the festival’s main headliner. Michael Kiwanuka‘s name is probably no stranger to those reading reviews in this blog on a regular basis. The more he ages, the better and personal his art and music get. That night’s set was incredible in terms of dedication and beauty. There is still a feel of the late Bill Withers in his music but also something which is very ‘now’ and difficult to describe. Probably one of the key artists with whom we will grow old in the next twenty years.

Day Three – Saturday 31st August 2019

Saturday was a tough one in terms of choices. As I still did not find a proper solution to be in two different places at the same time (I would be happy to learn from you, beloved readers…), I did not attend Courtney Barnett‘s concert. No regret however as all eight gigs we attended were awesome, from young British sax player Nubya Garcia to London female band Goat Girl (and their papier maché guest on stage) or again Porridge Radio, lead by vocalist Dana Margolin. Specific mention though to be given to three bands.

The first one is to the very young and bright band called black midi. Not a band you wanted to miss on stage as they played at 120% from the very first second to the last. Their music could be associated with a kind of modern age Public Image Ltd and I hope they will confirm all their musical talent in the years to come. Did I also mention that their drummer is amazing?

I finished the festival with two major bands, the first one being Low. That was a bit weird to catch them in the relaxed and mysterious atmosphere of the Garden Stage after their Barbican February gig but I must say I found it even better. The way this fantastic trio of musicians evolve in their art is simply flabbergasting.

No better way to finish the festival than partying with Sleaford Mods. No real surprise here as they give what you get, i.e. Andrew Fearn touches his laptop at the start of every song and dances with a beer in hand while Jason Williamson puts into lyrics all that does not work in today’s society with a Balzac-sense of details and loads of wittiness and humour. I must admit I was not that convinced the first time I caught them live in 2015 but the more it goes, the more I like them. A band not to miss on stage by any means.

So it looks this is it for now… The pain is still here but I already got my ticket for the 2021 edition for which a few greats have already confirmed their presence (Pixies, Aldous Harding, King Krule, Little Simz, Big Thief,…). For sure, ‘we will meet again’.

4 thoughts on “End of the Road festival – Larmer Tree Gardens, 29/30/31 August 2019

  1. Way back in 2005 I was living and working in Croydon and one day a young couple came in for a haircut. We spoke, no doubt, about this and that, but the thing that stuck with me was that they said they had remortgaged their house in Caterham and that they were putting on their own festival the following year! Well, you don’t hear this everyday and, tired of Glastonbury, and loving a festival, I asked them to keep me up to speed with its progress. And sure enough that is what happened. The following September, Pippa the Embalmer, Kenny B, The Crystal Palace brothers, Red Les and me drove down to Larmer Tree and caught the inaugural EOTR festival. A fantastic time was had by all. Details are dreamlike, but I recall particularly Darren Hayman and James Yorkston’s secret woodland shows, the Hot Cider bus breakfast, the peacocks, the cinema and the ease with which everyone could wander around the beautiful venue.

    As far as I can recall, we returned for the next four or five festivals – in blazing sun and pissing rain and caught many many legends – D. Hayman seemed to become a fixture, as did Wave Pictures, BRAKES. We certainly witnessed over those years Midlake, Yo La Tengo, King Creosote, British Sea Power, Lambchop (solo & band), Charlie Parr, Stagecoach and The Fall. I seem to remember Calexico playing one evening and the stage collapsing – or at least shifting perceptibly to one side – the gathered ensemble stumbling, honking, for a moment in a drunken squeal before recovering and continuing! This may have been enhanced by the hot cider with brandy bracers!? Another photo-memory that remains (for its shock value, I suppose) is one year LOW performing in the garden one afternoon and, I don’t know what brought this about, Alan Sparhawk effectively ending the quite sedate set by suddenly lassoing his guitar around his head and slinging it, shot-put style out into the crowd!

    I think by 2011 our little crew had all dispersed and the festival (brilliantly!) had become something of the success that it remains now and we sort of drifted off toward Green Man and other climes.

    Ah, great memories!
    Thank you for this great post, Stephane.
    Keep on keeping on
    xx

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